Sacerdos alter Christus! The priest is another Christ! It is something that we, priests and you, the faithful should always keep in mind, because the negation of the supernatural character of the priesthood is a poison that paralyzes the mystical Body of Christ and impedes the circulation of the grace within its members. We have heard so often during the more recent past decades that a priest is an ordinary man like everybody else. How wrong and fatal is this statement!
A priest is a very particular person chosen by Our Lord Jesus Christ for a very particular mission. This mission requires special means and without them it is impossible to accomplish it. The reason lies in the essence of this mission. It is nothing else than the participation in the priesthood of the only High Priest, Our Lord Jesus Christ. On the day of his ordination, the Bishop gives an extraordinary power to the priest: “Receive the power to offer the Sacrifice to God and to celebrate Masses for the living and the dead.” While the Bishop imposes his hands for the second time on his head, the new priest hears: “Receive the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
Offering the Sacrifice and forgiving sins is not a power given by nature, nor by a delegation of the Christian people. It can be given only by the One who has this power. The Sacrament of Holy Orders realizes a substantial change in those who receive it. This change is not visible, but is still real. And it is good that this invisible change is expressed by visible signs, such as the wearing of clerical clothes.
After the ordination the priest is no longer just himself, but, He is Christ. He can, and he must, speak in the name of Jesus. Hoc est Corpus meum – This is my Body. Ego te absolvo – I absolve you! At the altar and in the confessional, the priest is truly Jesus Christ. But he still has to imitate Jesus throughout his life. The ‘Hoc facite in meam commemorationem’ – Do this for the commemoration of me –truly concerns the renewal of the Sacrifice, but it should be an invitation for all priests to conform their whole life to the life of Jesus. It is more explicit after the washing of the feet. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.
The entire life of Jesus can be concentrated into one word: charity! Everything is charity in Jesus. Everything must be charity in the life of the priest. Everything must be charity in the life of every Christian. Charity will lead us to the Cross. We know it. Now let us accept it!
Let us pray tonight for priests. Let us pray for all the priests. We hear too often criticisms against priests. This finally reveals a lack of faith in their priesthood. For sure priests are human, and as such, have to carry the weight of their own infirmity, as well as those who criticize them and who, by doing so, certainly do not show a great example of charity. But beyond their human frailties, we should recognize the gift of God which they carry.
I, personally, know that I am not perfect. This is why I need your prayers and not your criticisms. And I am sure that this is the case for all the priests everywhere in the world. I also know that if we all live according to the teaching of our Divine Master by fulfilling the great Commandment of God, we will be blessed. Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est! Where charity and love are, there is God!
May Our Lady keep us in the love of God, so that He can be here with us. This is the grace we ask now!